Conservation of Richard the Lionheart’s statue

17 August 2009

The statue of Richard I of England which has stood in front of the House of Lords for the past 150 years has just emerged from major conservation work, as impressive as the day it was first unveiled.

Conservators started work at the end of July 2009 and for the next three weeks Richard Coeur de Lion’s statue underwent an extensive programme of cleaning and repair.

Three stages

First, the statue had all the dirt and old coating of black wax removed. Then the surface was repatinated to return the statue to its original dark brown colour. Finally, it was treated with a clear wax to protect it from weather and pollution.

The bas-relief plaques on the granite plinth on which the statue stands were also treated. The plinth itself was cleaned and the joints repointed.

Frost damage

The statue has suffered some damage over the years: in the winter of 1908-09, which was particularly severe, the near foreleg of the horse was damaged by frost. The conservation team discovered, though, that the repair that was made at the time has stood up well and that the patch covering the blemish was in good condition.

Wartime bomb damage

In 1940 the statue was hit by shrapnel from a high explosive bomb which damaged Parliament extensively. Richard’s sword was bent but not broken and the repair can still be seen.

The sword was the subject of an allied wartime radio broadcast in 1940: a symbol of the strength of democracy which would bend but not break under attack.

Sculptor favourite of Queen Victoria

Modelled by Baron Marochetti, this statue was highly praised when it won an award at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Marochetti, who was born in Italy, studied in France and moved to the England in 1848, became a favourite sculptor of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Image: Parliamentary copyright

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